The Art of the Brick


by Bella Ishanyan, Centerfold Editor

photos by Bella Ishanyan

LEGO. Since its creation in 1932, these plastic bricks have dominated toy boxes around the world, constructed a world of cinema, and infiltrated many a carpet, unbeknownst to an unsuspecting foot in its path. 

Many childhoods, myself included, were shaped by the hours of back-breaking work dedicated to butchering LEGO sets and creating whatever monstrosities we desired. It still amazes me that such a simple invention opens the door to a plethora of creative opportunities, and I was reminded of that amazement at Nathan Sawaya’s exhibit, “The Art of the Brick”.

The first of its kind, “The Art of the Brick” focuses exclusively on the potential of LEGO creation through the use of large sculptures. On a global tour, Sawaya’s work has been found in exhibits in over 100 cities in 26 countries across six continents. 

Previously showcased in Faneuil Hall in 2014, his work has made its way to Boston before; however, his new exhibit located on the city’s iconic Newbury Street creates an immersive, total LEGO experience. 

As I joined the small crowd in the lobby while waiting for the grand opening to commence, I was accompanied, not only by fellow art enthusiasts and press, but families of all ages. Children clung to the line dividers in anticipation as all of our eyes gazed at a smaller model of Sawaya’s emblematic “Yellow” in the center of the tiled floors, opening its heart to curious onlookers, contents spilling out in a golden puddle of geometricity. 

Following a short video introducing Sawaya and the intent behind his work, the curtains lifted to reveal stark white wallpaper and glittering chandeliers contrasting colorfully bright sculptures, all with a distinct angularity.

An ode to real life, the exhibit, forged by an assemblage of childhood joys, serves as a pathway into the human mind. The collection of imaginative sculpture weaves together various emotions of love, loss, and joy, along with the pleasures of art and pop culture. 

Sawaya accredits this nuanced interpretation of life to the variation of interests he’s had throughout his career, and that the exhibit reflects the journey of his career, he said in an interview. 

However, my favorite piece exemplifies Sawaya’s concept of emotion: “My Boy”, which can be found in the back section of the first floor. Although the specificities of the narrative are ambiguous, I was shocked by the emotion it invoked within me. Illuminated by an overhanging spotlight, a vibrant blue father cries as he holds onto the limp body of his smoke-gray son. The bricks, monochrome and inert, radiate personality and passion, a feeling I only thought I could find in classical art such as “Ivan the Terrible and His Son Ivan” by Ilya Repin, which I immediately associated “My Boy” with. The piece shows that contemporary art, despite the vast opportunity it provides for mockery of meaning, is not limited to a deeply personal splatter of paint on the wall, or even to a massive LEGO construction of a T-Rex (which I think is still incredibly awesome), but holds great opportunity for a fresh perspective on the moments we so often do not associate with modernity.

“The Art of the Brick” will remain on 343 Newbury St, Boston, MA 02115 until April 23, 2023. General admission tickets can be purchased on the exhibition’s website.

Interactional display
Sawaya being introduced at the event
“My Boy”
Sawaya speaks at the event

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